Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport received a visit from a rare airplane on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, when a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor, one of only 199 ever made, landed to fuel up and grab a bite to eat. The plane is part of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), an organization that tries to keep the interest of aviation-related activities fresh in the hearts of people of all ages.
The trio on the plane that stopped in Mena were on their way to Ada, Oklahoma to do just that, show the plane and keep interest alive. Not only is the plane historical in that there were only 199 made, with even less still actively flying, this particular plane has had many interesting adventures.
From 1929 – 1939, it was part of Eastern Air Transport. From 1930 – 1949, it was included in the Cubana Airlines and served as “Airforce One” for the Dominican Republic. In 1949, the plane was returned to the United States for barnstorming before being used for crop dusting and smoke jumping for the next thirteen years, then nine more years for barnstorming.
In 1965, the plane starred in the Jerry Lee Lewis film, The Family Jewels. A windstorm severely damaged the plane in 1973, after which the EAA purchased the plane and began restoring it to airworthy conditions. Since 1985, it has been used by the EAA and in 2009, it starred in the Johnny Depp movie, Public Enemies.